Departure | Mardi Gras Film Festival
This year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival ends officially this Thursday 3rd March 2016 and I think Salty did pretty good covering a bunch of films this year. The first cab off the rank we reviewed was EVERLASTING LOVE followed by THE GIRL KING and then DOWNRIVER, followed by GIRLS LOST, I have two more to post after this one and now I present to you, DEPARTURE. Sadly you missed seeing DEPARTURE at the festival as it screened on Sunday Feb 28th but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one scores an art house release in Australia or track it down via regular online avenues to obtain gay movies (not porn, serious art films – I would recommend Peccadillo Pictures, as I think they will sell it on home entertainment), it is for a 15+ audience and runs for 103mins.
BY JASON KING
DEPARTURE is a very unique coming of age story. It is the directorial debut of Andrew Steggall, who presents an intelligent sexual awakening story about a troubled family on the brink of separation from their ideal life. The mostly absent father and the pained mother are ending their long lived awkward marriage.To keep their life going they bought many homes, along the lines of solving marriage dramas with having a baby they would buy more homes. The family fave is the cottage in the Languedoc region of France, a stunning, divine and every other superlative you can find to describe stunning country homes. Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) and Elliot (Alex Lawther) are here to pack up the house and you can see everything in their world is not right.
Beatrice is so distraught at the end of her relationship that she is losing her mind and is lost in the knowledge their life, as they know it, is coming to an end, you literally see every stage of grief on the screen through Beatrice. Her son, Elliot has more issues than their imploding family, he is also coming to terms with being gay, and is years beyond his intelligence, a wanna be Igby bohemian cliched poet who is grasping at his intelligence in an endeavour to not sink with his demons. Then along comes the beautiful Clément, played by Phénix Brossard, who is in the town due to his own family dramas. He is the complete opposite of Elliot and while Elliot can be an asshole to his mother, Clément agrees to help them pack, causing a greater rift between Elliot and his mother as he sees her as a threat to his crush.
DEPARTURE is near perfection for me, it ticks every single box. The acting, the cinematography, the plot and then the added bonus is a film that makes the audience work for it, makes them use their brain and rarely explains things bluntly, like we are used to in Hollywood filmmaking. A tiny piece of the the plot unfolds every few minutes and us, as the audience, are left to question and ponder, “did he do that because of this?” “did she say that because of this?” This will leave DEPARTURE a film not for everyone, it will be a love or hate movie, and for me I loved everything about it.
First and foremost is the acting, let’s leave it at the three leads as the rest of the characters are minor and inconsequential. Both Juliet Stevenson (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, BEING JULIA, ATLANTIS) and Alex Lawther (X + Y, THE IMITATION GAME) deliver award worthy performances. Stevenson delivers a career performance as the lost mother torn by a shattering reality. She always believed they would retire to the farm home and live their days out in this beautiful countryside village. She isn’t helped by a teenager who is so emotionally beaten, aloof and also self absorbed (as are most teenagers) to realise there are others around him also being torn apart, as a teenager it his right to blame his parents for everything. In another life I was Elliot (Lawther), I had the single mum struggling, at times I treated her poorly being stuck in my own world and trying to realise who I was, while being madly in love with my straight best friends who were unawares and/or indifferent to my love and desires.
Lawther delivered the best performance of the year so far for me and the greatest thing about his character is his flaws, it really gets to a point in the movie where you just don’t like Elliot. He is manipulative and unbelievably selfish, at one stage I just wanted to smack the bejesus out of him. Then you realise why he is who he is, he is that lost and alone puppy thrown from his comfort zone who is about to lose everything, his family structure and his nice home and he has this one thing in his life he has infatuated on, Clément (Phénix Brossard). He wants this one thing all to himself, Clément isn’t even gay and is completely indifferent to Elliot’s subtle advances but Clément is also alone and he wants companionship, not love (or whatever it is when sixteen year olds are infatuated).
Phénix Brossard delivers a decent performance, he is mainly there for that body and that smouldering persona to make the audience want a part of him as much as Elliot, and possibly Elliot’s mum. He is like the Rebel riding into the pompous kid’s life offering something exotic and something that can be completely removed from Elliot’s current situation, in other words, the perfect summer crush. And as I would do, Elliot obsesses over something he knows he really can’t have, it adds to Elliot’s inner turmoil, unravelling himself that little bit extra.
This is cinematographer Brian Fawcett’s first feature as DOP and for the love of god people need to hire this guy, he will make your movies look insanely beautiful, as he does with DEPARTURE, it is like he has captured the essence of Renoir on a modern movie canvas, I fell in love with the setting of the movie, and would nearly kill to live there!
I cannot applaud Andrew Steggall’s debut enough, it is a heartbreaking modern tragedy that I will own a copy of. From this movie we will see the blossoming of Lawther’s career, watch that name people, he will become one of the great Brits.
Do what you can to see this movie legally people, it is the most beautifully produced coming of age modern tragedy I have seen.
Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.